White House-MIT Big Data Privacy Workshop[1] A Personal View

White House-MIT Big Data Privacy Workshop[1]
A Personal View
Dr. Michael L. Brodie
Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT
March 24, 2014


Actual and potential societal benefits of information in our increasingly digital world are leading to significant shifts in values (e.g., security versus freedom) in behaviours, and ultimately in polices and laws. More than ever before, technology is far ahead of the law. While the scale of Big Data offers massive potential, that very scale can render infeasible conventional, top-down solutions, including security technologies and methods. We are in the midst of two significant shifts – the shift to Big Data requiring new computational solutions, and the more profound shift in societal benefits, risks, and values.
The White House clearly enunciated the benefits and threats of Big Data. President Obama asserted for this study the societal objective of Keeping people safe in a world of Terrorism while maintaining their individual privacy in conjunction with the technical objectives that the Internet and Big Data must be open and interoperable. This was reinforced by the Honorable Penny Pritzker, Secretary of the US Department of Commerce, who recognized the potential of Big Data to enhance innovation, productivity, and economic growth based on the free flow of information and on mutual trust amongst citizens, corporations, and governments. These objectives underlie the White House study to determine: Whether our existing privacy framework can accommodate these changes, or if there are new avenues for policy that we need to consider. John Podesta, Obama’s Counselor and study lead asked: Have we fully considered the myriad ways in which this data revolution might create social value, he added, and have we fully contemplated the risks that it might pose to our conceptions of individual privacy, personal freedom and government responsibility of data? Does our legal privacy framework support and balance safety and freedom?

Download Article (.PDF):MIT-Whitehouse Workshop-View.pdf 

Originally published in KDnuggets


[1]    The White House-MIT Big Data Privacy Workshop: Advancing the State of the Art in Technology and Practice

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and MIT co-hosted a public workshop entitled “Big Data Privacy: Advancing the State of the Art in Technology and Practice” on March 3, 2014. The event was part of a series of workshops on big data and privacy organized by the MIT Big Data Initiative at CSAIL and the MIT Information Policy Project. The workshop was also the first in a series of events being held across the country in response to President Obama’s call for a review of privacy issues in the context of increased digital information and the computing power to process it.

[2]    White House Workshop Series

As part of this effort, OSTP will be co-hosting at least two additional events—one with the Data & Society Research Institute and New York University, and one with the School of Information and the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology at the University of California, Berkeley. In the coming weeks, we will be announcing additional opportunities for the public to inform this important work.  Check back here for more information and updates on our progress.

[3]    Craig Mundie, Privacy Pragmatism: Focus on Data Use, Not Data Collection, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2014.

[4]    Keynote speaker: John Podesta, White House Counselor, White House-MIT Big Data Privacy Workshop: Advancing the State of the Art in Technology and Practice, March 4, 2014, MIT, Cambridge, MA http://web.mit.edu/bigdata-priv/agenda.html

[5]    Edward Snowden, “Virtual Conversation with Edward Snowden” SXSW, Austin, TX Monday, March 10, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIhS9aB-qgU and http://sxsw.com/interactive/news/2014/snowden-sxsw-2014-watch-video-historic-march-10-session-here

[6]    Edward Snowden, Here’s how we take back the Internet, TED, Vancouver, Canada, March 19, 2014 https://www.ted.com/talks/edward_snowden_here_s_how_we_take_back_the_internet

[7]    Richard Ledgett, Deputy director, NSA; The NSA responds to Edward Snowden’s TED Talk, TED, Vancouver, Canada, March 20, 2014, http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_ledgett_the_nsa_responds_to_edward_snowden_s_ted_talk


Dr. Michael L. Brodie has over 30 years experience in research and industrial practice in databases, distributed systems, integration, artificial intelligence, and multi-disciplinary problem solving. He is concerned with the Big Picture aspects of information ecosystems including business, economic, social, application, and technical. Dr. Brodie is a Research Scientist, MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; advises startups; serves on Advisory Boards of national and international research organizations; and is an adjunct professor at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

For over 20 years he served as Chief Scientist of IT, Verizon, a Fortune 20 company, responsible for advanced technologies, architectures, and methodologies for Information Technology strategies and for guiding industrial scale deployments of emergent technologies, most recently Cloud Computing and Big Data. He has served on several National Academy of Science committees. Dr. Brodie holds a PhD in Databases from the University of Toronto
 and a Doctor of Science (honoris causa) from the National University of Ireland.

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